Finally, the word translated “perish” is derived from a verb (para‘), which generally means to “let go” or “let loose.” The translation of this verb as perishing is highly unlikely when it is considered that of its 16 uses in the Old Testament none of these are translated in this fashion. It is used of uncovering (letting loose) one’s head when a turban is removed as a sign of mourning in Leviticus 10:6 and Leviticus 21:10. In Exodus 32:25 the Israelites are unrestrained in the sense that their moral restraints were removed; that is, they showed no moral constraint while Moses was on Mount Sinai. This passage may be the background for Proverbs 29:18, and would, therefore, suggest that this verb has the sense of letting loose, a removal of moral restraints.

Therefore, this proverb should be understood to mean that when there is no special revelation, people cast off moral restraints; however, when people obey God’s word, they are blessed: “Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction” (NIV; similar renderings are found in HCSB, ESV, NKJV). This verse has tremendous theological and practical significance for us. Just as there was a direct correlation in the Old Testament between Israel’s moral condition and their knowing and submitting to God’s special revelation, so there is a direct correlation between our moral state and our knowing and submitting to God’s special revelation, the Bible.